Two years later, when will the pandemic end?

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) first reported several cases of a mysterious pneumonia in Wuhan, a hitherto uneventful city in central China. Two years later, the virus continues to wreak havoc around the world and no one wants to risk predicting when the pandemic will end. At the time of evaluations on the same date next year, will we continue at the same point? And in two years? Will we ever get out of this?

“A year ago a day, if they had asked me the same question, I would have said that in the summer of 2021, it would end thanks to the vaccine. But we have to admit that everyone who has made predictions so far is wrong. So I don’t dare to take a step forward anymore, ”Amir Khadir, a doctor specializing in microbiology and infectious diseases, responded immediately.

Indeed, the permanent state of crisis that has lasted for almost two years will end, says the former solidarity deputy, who returned to medicine after leaving active politics. No one is fooled: the virus is here for a long time, but Dr. Khadir is convinced that one day there will be a change from pandemic to endemic.

Much hope is placed these days in the Omicron variant, which is much more contagious, but considerably less severe, according to some studies conducted abroad. However, Amir Khadir cuts off these pious wishes at this stage of the new year, stating that the much desired endemic is still a long way from what is observed today.

“To have an endemic level, it would have to spread much more slowly. At the moment, although there is a small fraction of people who need to go to the hospital, the network is still overwhelmed, with so many cases. Those who compare it to influenza have no idea what it usually is. Flu, in the worst years, we speak of a few hundred, at most a few thousand cases a day, “explains the microbiologist-specialist in infectious diseases at the Pierre-Le Gardeur hospital in North Shore.

Would some decisions have made it possible to avoid this feeling of going back in time? Perhaps, but Dr. Khadir refuses to throw stones at anyone, aware that governments are sailing on sight with this virus that is unlike any other.

However, after realizing that vaccination was not a panacea, he became convinced that developed countries had to better redistribute vaccines in other parts of the world. Otherwise, you always run the risk of emerging a new variant from the least vaccinated corners of the world.

“We must listen to François Legault remind the Canadian government that without a planetary effort, we will never get out. We have a duty to have a plan, not only for Quebec and Canada, but for the whole world ”, argues the former politician.

Transition year

Virologist Benoit Barbeau is less adamant about how to get out of this crisis. Also, he is not surprised that it lasted two years, since the Spanish flu, after all, spread from 1918 to 1921.

“In 2020 and 2021, we got to know the virus. 2022 will be a year of transition. With Omicron, which provides natural immunity to the population, with the arrival of vaccines more adapted to new variants, with the arrival of treatments as well, we could change to a modality that is more endemic during the year ”, sees the professor of the Department. of Biological Sciences at UQAM.

However, it is too early to claim victory, warns Benoit Barbeau: “There is nothing to say that another variant will not take the place of Omicron and that this will materialize in more hospitalizations. Viruses generally mutate to become more contagious and less dangerous, but it is still too early to know if Omicron agrees with this. “

Unique moment in history

And above all, this wouldn’t be the first time that COVID-19 has foiled the forecasts of the past two years, even if that means shaking up certain scientific certainties. Because the pandemic we are going through is like no other. Of course, there was the Spanish flu, but the latter was characterized in Quebec by a major wave, followed by two shocks. Another big difference: the “Grim Reaper” was deadlier and many of the victims were children.

On the other hand, the Spanish flu has never led to the implementation of exceptional measures such as that suffered by Quebecers for two years, adds Denis Goulet, specialist in the history of medicine and associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the ‘University from Montreal. .

“During the Spanish flu, stores shortened their opening hours, nothing more. Some health workers did not even wear masks. There is no period in the history of Quebec that can be compared to the one we are going through ”, emphasizes Mr. Goulet, who has difficulties predicting what Quebec will be like after the pandemic.

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